With a, so to speak, ass backwards launch, Mayor Anthony Calderone Monday night proposed creation of a Forest Park diversity committee. Sure, formation of such a group is decades overdue since this town has been racially diverse in interesting and complex ways for many, many years.

We’ve urged the mayor to foster an honest and welcoming discussion of issues of race and class since early in his administration. And, we readily acknowledge, honest and welcoming is not an easy combination to create. In response we’ve always gotten that “Forest Park is not Oak Park” drivel that we’ve never understood. 

Now, as sometimes happens when people dance around the edges of race issues, we’ve come to the possibility of a diversity discussion by way of the daffy notion that Forest Park police should be telling young black men to pull their trousers up above their iliums. And we’ll admit that was a word/body part we’d never heard of until we read the mayor’s hastily crafted “saggy pants” proposal. As in, “wearing pants or shorts falling more than three (3) inches below the person’s hips (crest of the ilium) and exposing that portion of the person’s buttocks or undergarments.”

Let’s see. Such an ordinance is:

A total invasion of a person’s privacy

Either a ridiculous expectation that police would get out their tape measures and enforce this silly rule or a wide open invitation to racial profiling.

The most ham-handed possible way to begin any sort of thoughtful discussion of race imaginable.

What has surprised us the most so far in this dumb demonstration of leadership? Well that neither the police chief nor his deputy had ever heard of the proposal before the weekend is disturbing. Then there is Calderone’s assertion Monday night that he brought this idea forward, seemingly without any vetting of any sort through his non-existent kitchen cabinet of local black leaders, at the urging of several people who, surprise, surprise, did not show up on Monday night.

Commissioner Rory Hoskins, the single black elected village government official and the one regularly derided by his colleagues in the most personal terms, thankfully made the motion to table this hot mess. Calderone, though, claims he is committed to passing the saggy pants rule into law and wants his non-existent diversity committee to take up the topic as their first item of business. Perhaps the no-shows from Monday night will be the first to volunteer to serve on this committee. But probably not. People who think the best way to build diversity is to start by taking away the rights of black people aren’t usually the sorts who want to speak up in public. These unknown citizens proved that on Monday night.

Forest Park badly needs honest talk about race. The high school issue is tangled in race. Perceptions of the middle school revolve around race. The concentration of black residents in multi-family housing and the lack of black single-family home ownership is a concern. The elimination of the 4th of July fireworks had racial aspects.

Let’s form the committee. Let’s find ways to talk and to know each other across racial lines. Let’s be proud of the racial diversity in Forest Park and build a stronger community.

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